Ocean Action Hub

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Ocean cleanup device successfully collects plastic for first time

3 Oct 2019 - Floating boom finally retains debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, creator says.

3 Oct 2019Floating boom finally retains debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, creator says.

A huge floating device designed by Dutch scientists to clean up an island of rubbish in the Pacific Ocean that is three times the size of France has successfully picked up plastic from the high seas for the first time.

Boyan Slat, the creator of the Ocean Cleanup project, tweeted that the 600 metre-long (2,000ft) free-floating boom had captured and retained debris from what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Alongside a picture of the collected rubbish, which includes a car wheel, Slat wrote: “Our ocean cleanup system is now finally catching plastic, from one-ton ghost nets to tiny microplastics! Also, anyone missing a wheel?”

About 600,000 to 800,000 metric tonnes of fishing gear is abandoned or lost at sea each year. Another 8m tonnes of plastic waste flows in from beaches.

Ocean currents have brought a vast patch of such detritus together halfway between Hawaii and California, where it is kept in rough formation by an ocean gyre, a whirlpool of currents. It is the largest accumulation of plastic in the world’s oceans.

The vast cleaning system is designed to not only collect discarded fishing nets and large visible plastic objects, but also microplastics.

The plastic barrier floating on the surface of the sea has a three metre-deep (10ft) screen below it, which is intended to trap some of the 1.8tn pieces of plastic without disturbing the marine life below.

The device is fitted with satellites and sensors so it can communicate its position to a vessel that will collect the gathered rubbish every few months.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/03/ocean-cleanup-device-successfully-collects-plastic-for-first-time?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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Pacific islands seek $500m to make ocean's shipping zero carbon

24 Sept 2019 - Coalition of six nations aims to raise funds and achieve full decarbonisation by 2050.

24 Sept 2019Coalition of six nations aims to raise funds and achieve full decarbonisation by 2050.

A coalition of Pacific island nations wants to raise $500m (£400m) to make all shipping in the Pacific Ocean zero carbon by the middle of the century.

The Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership, announced on Tuesday by the governments of Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, has set an emissions reduction target of 40% by 2030, and full decarbonisation by 2050.

The partnership intends to raise money through grants from multinational institutions, concessional loans, direct private sector investment and through issuing regional “blue bonds”.

The money would be used to retrofit existing passenger and cargo ferries with low-carbon technologies, and to buy new zero-emissions vessels. Pacific island populations are dependent on shipping for travel, medicines, their livelihoods and connection to the outside world.

Such countries are precariously dependent on imported fossil fuels and acutely vulnerable to price shocks or supply disruptions. The region imports 95% of its fuels. Imported petroleum accounts for an average of 40% of GDP in Pacific island countries, with the transport sector the largest fuel user.

In archipelago states of small island populations spread over vast ocean distances, sea travel is vital for linking communities and for economic development. The lack of regular connectivity between islands is a major constraint on domestic, social and economic development and on international trade.

The climate crisis is making travel significantly more difficult and disrupted. Rising sea levels and the increased frequency of dangerous weather are making sea journeys more difficult and slower, leading to more frequent cancellations of journeys and damaging ageing transport infrastructure such as ports and refuelling facilities.

A joint Fiji-Marshall Islands government briefing paper said that compared with other major economic sectors, “investment in the sustainable development of sea transport for Pacific island countries has been extremely limited to date”.

“A transition to sustainable, resilient and decarbonised sea transport at this scale will require substantial investment, including at least $500m to support implementation of the 10-year work programme.”

The Marshall Islands environment minister, David Paul, told a forum at the UN climate action summit in New York that securing funding would spark a “rapid transformation of our … shipping sector”.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/24/pacific-islands-seek-500m-ocean-shipping-zero-carbon

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Why tiny Belize is a world leader in protecting the ocean

20 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - Fish stocks are stable and reef health improving, in part thanks to Belize’s substantial ‘no-take’ zones.

20 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - Fish stocks are stable and reef health improving, in part thanks to Belize’s substantial ‘no-take’ zones. Now greater legislation is needed to secure progress.

Covering all of Belize’s waters, the managed access scheme is unique, says fisheries administrator Beverly Wade. “Belize is the only country in the world that has successfully divided all its territorial waters, including functional fishing waters. We direct all fishermen into two of nine areas to build an architecture from the ground up, where a constituent takes ownership of resources because their livelihood depends on it.”

The programme is just part of a groundbreaking approach to ocean protection that has won the tiny country in Central America a reputation as a world leader.

Most recently, in April, Belize expanded the replenishment or “no-take” zones in its marine protected areas from 4.5% to 11.6%, almost tripling zones where fishing is banned, to rebuild fish populations and protect marine habitats. “Nowadays it’s sexy to say ‘this is a no-take area’ somewhere miles out at sea,” says Wade, at her office in Belize City, “but our no-take zone of 16% is a giant achievement for a tiny country like Belize, because all our protected areas are right where people are interacting on a daily basis. That is the hardest thing to achieve.”

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/14/why-tiny-belize-is-a-world-leader-in-ocean-protection?CMP=share_btn_tw

PHOTO: Tony Rath

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Plastic, poverty and paradox: Tracking plastic waste in the Ganges

8 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - India’s most sacred river is also its most polluted, with plastic a major culprit. A new effort will monitor its flow to the ocean and assess poverty linkages.

8 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - India’s most sacred river is also its most polluted, with plastic a major culprit. Now moves are afoot to monitor the flow of rubbish and assess its link to poverty.

Drop a plastic bottle into the Ganges and where does it end up? An all-female team of engineers, explorers and scientists is about to find out by undertaking the first expedition to measure plastic waste in one of the world’s most polluted waterways.

Following the Ganges upstream from where it empties in the Bay of Bengal to its source in the Himalayas, the National Geographic-backed expedition aims to better understand how plastic pollution travels from source to sea and provide solutions for reducing the amount that ends up in the world’s oceans.

The 2,525 km-long Ganges is a river of extreme paradox: though worshipped by 1 billion Hindus and relied on as a water source for roughly 400 million people, it is contaminated with industrial runoff, untreated sewage and household waste. It is also one of 10 rivers responsible for 90% of the plastic that ends up at sea.

The river is, therefore, a perfect starting point for measuring how plastic travels from land into rivers, and from rivers into the ocean, says National Geographic fellow and University of Georgia associate professor Jenna Jambeck, who is co-leading the expedition.

“We know there’s plastic in these river environments and that the plastic is heading into the ocean,” says environmental engineer Jambeck, whose previous research found that 8m metric tons of plastic waste enters oceans every year.

“But we don’t know how far, for instance, if someone dropped a plastic bottle into the Ganges, where it ends up. How far does it go?”

The team of 18 – with researchers from organisations including the Wildlife Institute of India, University of Dhaka and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) – completed the first round of the expedition this spring to collate pre-monsoon plastic levels.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/05/plastic-poverty-and-paradox-experts-head-to-the-ganges-to-track-waste

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IUCN red list reveals wildlife destruction from treetop to ocean floor

23 Jul 2019 - The Guardian - Latest list shows extinction now threatens a third of all assessed species, while overfishing has pushed two families of rays to the brink.

23 Jul 2019 - The Guardian - Latest list shows extinction now threatens a third of all assessed species, while overfishing has pushed two families of rays to the brink.

From the tops of trees to the depths of the oceans, humanity’s destruction of wildlife is continuing to drive many species towards extinction, with the latest “red list” showing that a third of all species assessed are under threat.

The razing of habitats and hunting for bushmeat has now driven seven primates into decline, while overfishing has pushed two families of extraordinary rays to the brink. Pollution, dams and over-abstraction of freshwater are responsible for serious declines in river wildlife from Mexico to Japan, while illegal logging is ravaging Madagascar’s rosewoods, and disease is decimating the American elm.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/18/iucn-red-list-reveals-wildlife-destruction-from-treetop-to-ocean-floor

PHOTO: A guitarfish, one of two families of rays pushed to the brink of extinction in the IUCN’s updated red list. Photograph: Matt Potenski/IUCN

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Humans have made 8.3bn tons of plastic since 1950. This is the illustrated story of where it's gone

27 Jun 2019 - Until recently we didn’t know how much plastic was piling up around us. When we found out, the picture wasn’t pretty. The Guardian US investigates.

27 Jun 2019 - Until recently we didn’t know how much plastic was piling up around us. When we found out, the picture wasn’t pretty. The Guardian US investigates.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/23/all-the-plastic-ever-made-study-comic?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life - UN

6 May 2019 - From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate that is tens to hundreds of times higher than

6 May 2019 - From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate that is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10m years, according to the Global Assessment Report by the United Nations.

The report says that values and goals need to change across governments so that local, national and international policymakers are aligned to tackle the underlying causes of planetary deterioration. This includes a shift in incentives, investments in green infrastructure, accounting for nature deterioration in international trade, addressing population growth and unequal levels of consumption, greater cooperation across sectors, new environmental laws and stronger enforcement.

Greater support for indigenous communities and other forest dwellers and small-holders is also essential. Many of the last hold-outs for nature are in areas managed by such groups, but even here the pressures are beginning to take a toll, as wildlife declines along with knowledge of how to manage it.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report

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New York State bans single-use plastic bags

2 Apr 2019 - Home to almost 20 million residents, the state will ban most single-use plastic bags provided by supermarkets and other stores starting in March 2020. 

2 Apr 2019 - Drivers traveling into the busiest sections of Manhattan will be subject to a congestion charge starting in 2021 and single-use plastic bags will be banned across New York state in less than a year, under a $175.5bn state budget agreement announced on Sunday by the governor, Andrew Cuomo, and legislative leaders.

Most single-use plastic bags provided by supermarkets and other stores will be banned statewide starting 1 March 2020. Counties will have the option of charging 5 cents for paper bags, with 2 cents going to local governments and 3 cents to the state environmental protection fund.

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Plastics 'leading to reproductive problems for wildlife'

27 Feb 2019 - Plastics are an increasing cause of concern due to potential sources of chemicals that disrupt hormones and affect the growth and reproductive success of a wide variety of wi

27 Feb 2019 - Plastics are an increasing cause of concern due to potential sources of chemicals that disrupt hormones and affect the growth and reproductive success of a wide variety of wildlife, according to a new report.

Wildlife in the oceans and on land are subject to cocktails of pollutants known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), but little is still known about how these common substances interact in the environment despite years of research. The increasing problem of plastic waste breaking down in fragile ecosystems is now one of the key areas of research for scientists.

Killer whales with high levels of pollutants known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were used in many plastics before being banned globally in 2004, have shown reproductive problems. A pod off the west coast of Scotland known to have high levels of PCBs has failed to produce a single calf in 25 years.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/27/plastics-leading-to-reproductive-problems-for-wildlife

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Liberia's success in struggle to end illegal fishing

28 Jan 2019 - For years, Liberia fought a losing battle against the foreign vessels plundering its coastline. Then a bold new approach sent fines – and arrests – soaring.

28 Jan 2019 - For years, Liberia fought a losing battle against the foreign vessels plundering its coastline. Then a bold new approach sent fines – and arrests – soaring.

Petty officer George Kromah, of the Liberian coastguard, slings his AK47 across his back before disappearing over the side of the Sam Simon, joining his colleagues in the rib below. The boat roars off, quickly followed by a second, speeding through the choppy Atlantic swell in pursuit of a suspected illegal fishing vessel that has crossed into Liberia’s territorial waters from Sierra Leone.

Kromah and his fellow officers are on the frontline of the little nation’s ill-matched crackdown on fisheries crime – which Interpol has linked with the trafficking of drugs and people, as well as fraud and tax evasion.

The largely ungoverned waters of west Africa are plagued on a daily basis by big industrial vessels from wealthier nations that plunder hundreds of tonnes of fish, at the expense of local fisherman. One 2017 study estimates the cost of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) to just six west African countries at $2.3bn (£1.8bn) a year. It is a cost that Liberia, one of the world’s poorest nations – and heavily dependent on foreign aid after decades of civil war – cannot afford.

But neither has it funds to police its 370km of coastline.

Two years ago, the defence ministry of this tiny country of 4.7 million people took an unusual step to tackle multi-million dollar crimes: partnering with Sea Shepherd, self-styled “eco-vigilantes”, known for controversial tactics against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. The Guardian travelled with the coastguard aboard the Sam Simon, a 56-metre patrol vessel provided to the military, along with its largely volunteer crew.

The pursuit of the suspected illegal tuna boat, the Oriental Kim, ended undramatically with a warning rather than an arrest. It was found to be broadly operating legally, with some discrepancies. But according to Sea Shepherd, news of policing at sea has “spread like wildfire” among vessel owners, creating a deterrent effect.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/28/liberia-eco-vigilantes-score-arresting-success-in-struggle-to-end-illegal-fishing

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